Thursday, July 02, 2009

DAY 1: Leafs got tougher, Canadiens got smaller

Wow, yesterday was no different than the past few July 1st with around $400 million spent. So much about concern that the salary cap falling next season. So far we can see that Brian Burke is living up to his promise to make the Leafs tougher. And he overspent for defensive defenseman Mike Komisarek at $4.5 million per season but there are no bargains in the free agent bin. Throw in Garnet Exelby along with Komisarek and Schenn and you have some big hitters on the blue line. However the defense right now is pretty crowded so there may be more trades coming. The fringe players Stralman and Frogren cannot be moved up and down between the Leafs and Marlies without exposing them on waivers. And let's not forget Burke expects the losers in the Bouwmeester hunt to coming asking about Kaberle.

Michael Komisarek
Tomas Kaberle
Ian White
Garnet Exelby
Luke Schenn
Jeff Finger
Mike Van Ryn
Jonas Frogren
Anton Stralman

However, with the addition of only fighter Colton Orr, Burke has so far failed to land any skill players that the Leafs dearly need up front. They are incredibly thin at centre after trading Moore and Antropov and have only soft and inexperienced players at this position. Their top centre is Grabovski but he is an unsigned restricted free agent. Then there is Stajan who rarely throws a check and Mitchell is best suited on the fourth line but saw first line duty at the end of the season. Here is the complete list of centres.

Mikhail Grabovski
Matt Stajan
Jiri Tlusty
John Mitchell
Tyler Bozak
Christian Hanson

The Leafs strongest position is left wing where they have several 20-goal scorers and the rest with the potential to score 20. Right wing is pretty pathetic which makes you think if some help isn't coming then some left wingers will play their off wing (Blake did last season) or some centres will shift to the right. Still Burke as money to spend and has indicated that he will spend to the cap every season.

Left Wing
Jason Blake
Niklas Hagman
Nikolai Kulemin
Alexi Ponikarovski

Right Wing
Lee Stempniak
Jamal Mayers
Colton Orr

Around the league Montreal has done a total makeover of their lineup. Last season their top line was Koivu, Kovalev and Tanguay. This season is appears to be Cammalleri, Gionta and Gomez. Who knows how well this combination will work out. They are all small and relied on other star players to improve their performance. But maybe this combination will work.

The Rangers did well by replacing Gomez with Higgins, McDonagh and Gaborik. They were 28th in the league in scoring this past season but the key for them is the health of Gaborik.

Elsewhere Minnesota replaced Gaborik with Havlat and Chicago replaced Havlat with Hossa. This looks like a saw off for these teams but Hossa may be the best of thses players so Chicago did well. Throw in the free agents Madden and Kopecky, both players from winning organizations (Devils and Wings) and the Hawks may be a strong condender next year if they have goaltending. Detroit was unable to hang onto all of their free agents but they have lots of both skill players and grinders in their system waiting to fill those spots.

The best signing so far was Mike Knuble to Washington. They still need to fill a centre spot with the defection of Federov to the KHL but Knuble is a big, tough player that can score. He will fit in well in Washington. He would fit in well on any team.

Tampa Bay signed Ohlund to a massive contract that will help the team on the blueline but what does it do for them financially? They cannot afford their current massive contracts and just added to them. Obviously the only reason Ohlund signed with this dysfunctional contract was the money.